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Laboratories Physics 131

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NEXUS/Physics > InstructorsHomePage > NEXUS Laboratories


For guidance on how the labs are designed and intended to be used, see the page


First semester laboratories

In addition to exploring the physics of random motion at the microscopic level, the lab provides an introduction to valuable research tools: ImageJ for the capture and processing of video data, and Excel for quantitative analysis. The first few weeks involve activities that introduce students to the use of these tools and to the concept of error analysis.


Lab structure and reports

The labs are intended to be done in groups of four. (For the structure, refer to Introduction to the Scientific Community Lab, and introduction for students.) 


In the first week, (Lab 1, Part 1), the students report is simply a printout of their Excel spreadsheet, along with a short description of what each graph says about the motion of the amoeba.  with the data and graphs appropriately prepared for presentation. This gives students a chance to get detailed feedback on the data presentation portion of their work prior to their first full lab report (Lab 1, Part 2). Later lab reports are only written for the entire lab (2-3 weeks) and should be prepared throughout.


Laboratory activities


  • Laboratory 1: Quantifying motion from Images and Videos
    • Part 1: How do you quantify motion?  Excel Analysis of the 1-D Motion of an Amoeba. 
    • Part 2: Can you learn any biology from physical measurements?  Analysis of Cell Motion Using ImageJ.


  • Laboratory 2: Inferring force characteristics from motion analysis.
    • Week 1: How can information about forces be derived from a video?  
    • Week 2: Introduction to Error Propagation 


  • Laboratory 3: The motion of microscopic objects
    • Week 1: Brownian 'random' motion intro and random vs. directed motion
    • Week 2: Random vs. directed motion (continued)


  • Laboratory 4: Deeper exploration of 'random' motion
    • Week 1: Describing random motion
    • Week 2: Quantifying random motion: diffusion 
    • Week 3: Exploring the diffusion constant


  • Laboratory 5: Motion and work in living systems
    • Week 1: How much work is involved in active transport?
    • Week 2: How much work is involved in active transport? (continued)






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